South Korean health officials and media reports say a flight attendant confirmed to have the new coronavirus is believed to have worked on flights from South Korea to Los Angeles and back last week. South Korea has the second-most cases of COVID-19 behind China, where the virus originated.
The South Korean Centers for Disease Control says the Korean woman, in her mid-20s, was on Korean Air Flight KE17 that left Los Angeles International Airport at 10:20 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20, and arrived at Incheon International Airport on Saturday. But South Korean media outlets report she previously was on Flight KE12 from Incheon to LAX.
Before those flights, the flight attendant reportedly worked a flight between South Korea and Tel Aviv, Israel, on Feb. 15. A church group was on that flight. The South Korean CDC said at least 31 people in that group also tested positive for coronavirus.
It's still not confirmed when or where the flight attendant contracted the virus. but the Times of Israel reports she was diagnosed after she returned from Los Angeles.
If she was infected before arriving in Los Angeles, it is unknown how many people she may have interacted with or whether she communicated the virus to anyone else. But according to scheduling information from Korea Air's website, it appears there is regularly a 14-hour layover.
Reuters reports the news prompted Korea Air to close its airport office. That's where the crew briefing room is located.
Delta Air Lines is sharply cutting back on flights between the U.S. and Seoul, South Korea, and Hawaiian Airlines is suspending all its flights to Seoul because of the outbreak.
South Korea has reported nearly 1,600 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday morning.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.